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YES, JONATHAN CAN RUN

By NBF News

In the last few days, the PDP appears to have been thrown into a frenzy by the perfectly simple and harmless statement of the chief servant of Niger State and chairman of the Northern Governors' Forum, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu: that there was an agreement in the PDP that President Goodluck Jonathan should serve only one term. Long before the gutsy Niger State governor made that assertion, everybody believed there was some form of agreement anyway. Whether there was a written agreement or a mere gentleman's agreement, there was clearly an agreement of a sort. Even those outside the PDP knew this. That, of course, is why the president has found it extremely difficult to go public with what everyone already knows, which is that he has made up his mind to run in 2015. But that is PDP's business. PDP is not Nigeria and Nigeria is not PDP. In fact, the political and economic entity called Nigeria would have been much better off if the PDP as currently constituted did not exist at all.

And why should what a bunch of PDP fortune seekers agreed upon concern the rest of us? As a public commentator, I have never supported the idea of zoning anyway. And, thankfully, the fact of Jonathan contesting in 2011 has finally killed the zoning debate within the PDP.

Yes, I absolutely agree that there should be honour even among thieves - even if that sounds a bit of an oxymoron. But why should I be bound by an agreement by thieves? Even though Nigeria has been taken over by thieves, that doesn't make it a den of thieves. And if the PDP people want to go to court to stop the president, their leader, from becoming their standard bearer, they should find a better way of wasting their time. They are not likely to succeed even in court.  What most of them did together with the president to cheat the opposition in the law courts across the country is what the president will do to them this time.

President Jonathan has a right within the constitution to seek re-election much in the same way that President Lydon Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, had the right to seek re-election in 1968. He, in fact, did seek re-election but only pulled out of the race after he did very poorly in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, after which the very popular Senator Bob Kennedy joined the race. Johnson was President Kennedy's vice president. He succeeded President Kennedy in November 1963 after the latter's assassination. He completed Kennedy's term and sought election in his own right in 1964, which he won easily. He took another oath of office as president in January 1965. In 1968, he declared his intention to run again. He joined the race and dropped out of his own volition. He was not stopped by any law.

Our constitution is still predominantly fashioned after that of the United States and the relevant portions of the constitution are still similar. Besides, even if they were not, President Jonathan would win the case against him in court the same funny way that he won the presidential election petition against him. And if there is any judge that would not play ball or would prove difficult, he could be removed the same way that Justice Ayo Salami was removed. In any case, the crude and uncivilised manner President Jonathan removed Justice Salami was meant to send a message to other judges - and I am sure it did.

For a long time, I have said that the most important thing Nigerians should insist on is free and fair elections. Let there be free and fair elections and let Jonathan run on his record, pure and simple. I have always said that this turn-by-turn stealing that some Nigerians are insisting on will kill Nigeria one day; Jonathan has brought us much closer to that death. The candidate who could win the 2015 presidential election is that candidate who would first unite, and heal the wounds of, the disparate interests of the north. The north comprises 19 states but is currently the most volatile. Jonathan's sole 2015 strategy is to divide the north along religious lines as he did in 2011 and he has already started doing towards the 2015 election. Everything Jonathan is doing so far is along these lines. He thinks religious sentiments in the north will trump the issues of corruption, incompetence, total breakdown of law and order, and the non-sanctity of life that have solidly defined his government.

Whoever can unite the north especially along religious lines and then proceed to unite the entire country will be the president in 2015. The candidate who would win must be perceived as one who has a clear answer to the current scandalous level of corruption in the country and must also have a clear economic pathway that would move the country from a mono-product economy hooked precariously on the sale of crude oil to a diversified economy based on the nation's humongous human capital, agricultural and mineral resources and the sheer ingenuity and industry of the everyday Nigerian. In the next decade, the value of our crude oil is likely to diminish significantly as the big buyers - the United States, China, Germany and the United Kingdom - would be taking full advantage of hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling to free oil and gas from shale rocks in their own countries. This is in addition to the fact that, by 2015, 14 other African countries would have effectively joined Nigeria as oil producers, thus lowering the value of our main revenue earner. I don't see how Jonathan fits into all these. There are many people who, in fact, think that it is an insult that Jonathan should attempt to seek re-election.

But having said that, it bears repeating that Jonathan is perfectly within his right to seek re-election. And it is, in fact, in the interest of the nation that he seeks re-election: until an incumbent president is defeated in a credible election in this country, democracy cannot be said to have taken root and therefore irreversible in Nigeria.

It is not just in the nation's interest for the PDP to field Jonathan as its standard bearer, it should also be in APC's enlightened self-interest to encourage this. President Jonathan is roundly unpopular all over the country even in the South-South. He is actually more unpopular within the ranks of the PDP and 'the largest party in Africa' is now in total disarray because of him. The APC cannot wish for a better opponent. That is, if the APC itself seizes the moment and fields a candidate that Nigerians, whether they are from the north, west, east, or south, would be excited about. That APC candidate must have the requisite skill to be able to unite people across tendencies and interest groupings in addition to the ability to talk to people in the PDP who love their country more than they love their pockets or bank accounts. And there are many such people in the PDP. Courting selected PDP people would be a very important part of the winning strategy for whoever shall emerge as the APC flag-bearer; and, here, I am not talking about PDP people who will inexorably cross over to the APC platform but those who would actually remain within the PDP fold. If there is any lesson to be learnt from the collapse of Obasanjo's third term bid, it is that those within the PDP fold are probably more important weapons in the fight against the party's evil machine.

If Nigerians see a candidate that can bring the whole country together and set the nation on a new path of development, they will vote for that person and protect their votes. Therefore, let Jonathan contest and let him run on his record.

EARSHOT
We Are All Marginalised
People of the south-west have been shouting themselves hoarse about the fact that they are marginalised in the current Jonathan arrangement. The south-south has lately been shouting too. Ms Annkio Briggs of the Ijaw Republican Assembly has also been shouting that the south-south is marginalised. I spoke recently with a senior PDP Ijaw politician who told me that the main Ijaw people are marginalised. Jonathan is only empowering his own Otueke people, he said. The entire north feels completely cut off from the government - the north-east especially feels abandoned by the president who has said that he feels unsafe travelling to their part of the country. The south-east, of course, is perennially complaining about marginalisation. The only people that obviously do not feel any kind of marginalisation are the indigenes of Aso Rock. In a country with so much resources and so many opportunities, why won't everybody feel marginalised with the kind of stealing, injustice and unfairness that we see every day?